Home  |  Top News  |  Most Popular  |  Video  |  Multimedia  |  News Feeds  |  Feedback
  Medicine  |  Nature & Earth  |  Biology  |  Technology & Engineering  |  Space & Planetary  |  Psychology  |  Physics & Chemistry  |  Economics  |  Archaeology
Top > Biology > Tracking Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles… >
Tracking Endangered Leatherback Sea Turtles by Satellite, Key Habitats Identified

Published: March 19, 2014.
By University of Massachusetts at Amherst
http://www.umass.edu

AMHERST, Mass. ¢€“ A first-of-its-kind satellite tagging study of migrating New England leatherback turtles in the North Atlantic offers a greatly improved understanding of their seasonal high-use habitats, diving activity and response to key ocean and environmental features in relation to their search behavior. Leatherbacks are considered endangered species in all the world's oceans.

The study, part of doctoral research by Kara Dodge supervised by her advisor, Molly Lutcavage of the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Large Pelagics Research Center (LPRC) in Gloucester, followed leatherbacks in their northern US feeding grounds. It allowed for a rare glimpse into the migratory patterns and behavior of immature and adult male turtles.

Most satellite tagging studies of leatherbacks have focused on adult females on their tropical nesting beaches, so little is known worldwide about males and subadults, the researcher point out. But now, tagging and satellite tracking in locations where leatherbacks forage has allowed the scientists to get a much richer picture of the leatherback's behavior and dispersal patterns on the open ocean.

Findings suggest that a habitat model that includes ecoregion, topography and sea surface temperature best explains the leatherbacks' search patterns for prey. The tagged leatherbacks in this LPRC-led study showed a strong affinity for the Northeast U.S. shelf during the summer and fall when full-sized jellyfish are present.

New knowledge about leatherbacks, particularly in coastal habitats, is important, the authors say, because "coastal ecosystems are under intense pressure worldwide, with some of the highest predicted cumulative impact in the North American eastern seaboard and the eastern Caribbean. Parts of those regions constitute high-use habitat for leatherbacks in our study, putting turtles at heightened risk from both land- and ocean-based human activity."

Lutcavage and colleagues' findings appear in the current issue of PLOS ONE. These will be useful to agencies such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (MassDMF) charged with protecting leatherbacks under international treaties and national laws, and in international efforts to protect leatherbacks throughout the North Atlantic.

Lutcavage, Dodge, and Ben Galuardi of the LPRC, with Tim Miller of NOAA, set out to determine how leatherbacks behave in distinct regions, or "ecoregions" of the North Atlantic, as well as their diving habits in those areas and other new information. For this study, supported by LPRC, NOAA Fisheries, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and MassDMF, the team worked with commercial fishermen, spotter pilots and the Massachusetts sea turtle disentanglement network from 2007 to 2009 to tag 20 leatherback turtles off the coast of Cape Cod.

Leatherbacks have long been known to inhabit New England waters, says Lutcavage. "We started the satellite tagging work in 1994, but had little understanding of their daily lives until recently because we first wanted to develop ways to directly attach the tag without encumbering the turtle."

"Once that was accomplished, we could collect accurate track locations via GPS along with dive data, and determine the leatherbacks' residence time, high-use habitat and behavior on the Northeast US shelf and beyond," she adds.

The research team also examined environmental features, including bathymetry, or depth information, plus remotely-sensed temperature and ocean productivity data to understand leatherback habitat preferences. Dodge says, "Our study provides new insights about how male and immature turtles behave, how they use their habitats and how that differs from adult females. Resource managers for protected marine species have lacked this key understanding, especially in coastal regions of the U.S. and Caribbean where leatherbacks and intense human activity coincide."

Leatherbacks are the largest turtles in the world, weighing up to 2000 pounds and up to seven feet long. They are warm-bodied, deep divers that can descend below 3000 feet. They have the widest global distribution of all reptiles and are the most migratory sea turtle species, traveling thousands of miles between feeding and breeding grounds. Unlike other sea turtles, leatherbacks exclusively eat soft-bodied gelatinous zooplankton such as jellyfish and salps. Their pursuit of patchily distributed "jellies" and unique thermoregulatory ability contributes to their expansive range.




Translate this page: Chinese French German Italian Japanese Korean Portuguese Russian Spanish


 
All comments are reviewed before being posted. We cannot accept messages that refer a product, or web site.If you are looking for a response to a question please use our another feedback page.
Related »

Tuna 
7/31/14 
Study of Bigeye Tuna in Northwest Atlantic Uses New Tracking Methods
By University of Massachusetts at Amherst
AMHERST, Mass. – A first-of-its-kind study of bigeye tuna movements in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean led by Molly Lutcavage, director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at the University …
Tuna 
5/28/10 

New Study Maps Spawning Habitat of Bluefin Tuna in the Gulf of Mexico
By Stanford University - Hopkins Marine Station
Tracking 
2/6/12 
Satellite Tracking Reveals Sea Turtle Feeding Hotspots
By United States Geological Survey
Satellite tracking of threatened loggerhead sea turtles has revealed two previously unknown feeding 'hotspots' in the Gulf of Mexico that are providing important habitat for at least three separate …
Blue 
12/6/11 
★★★ 
Genetic Markers Help Feds Enforce Seafood Regulations
By Virginia Institute of Marine Science
New discoveries in "marine forensics" by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) will allow federal seafood agents to genetically test blue marlin to quickly and accurately …
Scientists 
2/26/14 
Where Have All the Codfish Gone?
By University of Hawaii at Manoa
The mega-decline in cod and other fisheries across the North Atlantic Ocean threatens the livelihood of fishermen and communities in New England and Atlantic Canada. One suspect in the …
North 
4/30/13 
★ 
North Atlantic Seaweed Is Safe to Eat
By University of Southern Denmark
Seaweed has been eaten for thousands of years by people all over the world, and it can be considered a tasty and healthy food item. This is the conclusion …
Penguins 
5/15/14 
Study Sheds Light on Penguins First Year Far from Home
By PLOS
In the first study of its kind, scientists tracked penguins first year away from home and found young king penguins explored new habitat, eventually learning to find food similarly …
More » 
 
© Newsline Group  |  About  |  Privacy Policy  |  Feedback  |  Mobile  |  Japanese Edition